The visualisation of fingermarks on Pangolin scales using gelatine lifters

G. Moorat, Jacqueline Ann Reed, Stephen Bleay, Mark Andrew Amaral, Brian Chappell, Nick Pamment, Christian Plowman, Paul Smith

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Recent media reports document the plight of the Pangolin and its current position as “the most trafficked mammal in the world”. They are described by some as scaly anteaters as all species are covered in hard keratinous tissue in the form of overlapping scales acting as a “flexible dermal armour”. It is estimated that between 2011 and 2013, 117,000 to 234,000 pangolins were slaughtered, but the seizures may only represent as little as 10% of the true volume of pangolins being illegally traded. In this paper, methods to visualise fingermarks on Pangolin scales using gelatine lifters is presented. The gelatine lifters provide an easy to use, inexpensive but effective method to help wildlife crime rangers across Africa and Asia to disrupt the trafficking. The gelatine lifting process visualised marks producing clear ridge detail on 52% of the Pangolin scales examined, with a further 30% showing the impression of a finger with limited ridge detail. The paper builds on an initial sociotechnical approach to establishing requirement, then it focuses on the methods and outcomes lifting fingermarks off Pangolin scales using gelatine lifters, providing an evaluation of the viability of using the lifters in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110221
JournalForensic Science International
Early online date28 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


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